Each of our guided tours has been designed to maximize your exposure to Grand Rapids’ most interesting and beautiful sights. Our tour ambassadors are chock-full of fascinating facts that will distract you from the workout your muscles are getting on the rolling hills of the Grand River valley. You choose the best way to explore the sights of downtown Grand Rapids…Run. Walk. Ride.
We offer a number of year-round “classic” tours as well as a changing array of seasonal tours that highlight different aspects of Grand Rapids.
Please select a thematically organized tour from the menu below.
Every Building Tells a Story: The Architecture of Downtown Grand Rapids 5K
We invent cities. We create streets and we construct buildings. Whether the structures are historic, brand new, a combination of both, or a glimpse into our future, they provide a creative portrayal of our collective story of our “place”, our built environment. No one architectural style is more intelligent or artistic or important than another…they are all invaluable pages in our city’s scrapbook. This IS Grand Rapids. The buildings belong to all of us…they are our common view, our Cityscape. And each one tells a story as we physically move through time.
The Firehouse Four Miler
We’re hot to trot on this sizzlin’ route. Envision early Grand Rapids…streets lined with wooden buildings, illuminated by candles or oil lamps and heated with wood stoves. Fires were dangerously commonplace. Fire protection consisted mainly of a few fire buckets and as many hands as possible. The makeshift fire brigade gave way to 10 majestic Firehouses in Grand Rapids by the year 1910. Some of these are still standing, a couple are still operating, and others are long gone. Find out which ones are which on this jaunt through downtown.
Lapping the Landmarks 5K
An absolute “must-run” for visitors, new residents and longtime citizens who want a new perspective on our fair city! We’ll cruise by Campau Square, named after the founding father of Grand Rapids, on our way to explore some of the city’s “first and finest” including historic sites, museums, colleges, restaurants, hotels, bridges, churches, the Medical Mile, the Grand River and more…all neatly contained in a 5K loop.
Art Dart 5K
See why Grand Rapids is hailed as one of America’s most creative cities! We’ll run through the city center in hunt of 25 significant artworks, including the 42-ton Alexander Calder sculpture that symbolizes the city’s innovative spirit. Also on the tour: two art museums, an art & design school and the headquarters of ArtPrize, a revolutionary art competition ranked as one of the world’s top five festivals by Time Magazine. You’ll find the run physically and artistically invigorating.
America’s Furniture City 5K
Over the course of 50 short years, small family-owned furniture shops grew into large-scale furniture manufacturers, earning Grand Rapids the title of Furniture City, America’s Furniture Capital, and The Paris of Furniture Design. Learn as you move through downtown and pass the intriguing remnants of the residential furniture Glory years: 1870 – 1930. Discover why “timing was everything” for our new frontier small city to capture the world’s attention and dominate the economic landscape of Grand Rapids. We will also run by places that connect the dots to today’s thriving office furniture industry.
Steeple Chase 5K or 10K
Learn why Grand Rapids has been called “The City of Churches” on this pulse-pounding tour of religious landmarks. We’ll run by churches that date back to 1848 and see multiple architectural styles, soaring spires, expertly crafted stone & brickwork, Tiffany windows and more. Along the way, you’ll discover the historical importance and contemporary relevance of faith in Grand Rapids. Available in two distances – your choice.
The Tale of Beer City USA 5K
“In Grand Rapids, the German-born immigrants began arriving in the 1840’s, and within a decade, they were one of the city’s largest immigrant groups. This increased the local demand for beer and the need for more breweries and brewmasters.” This is the beginning of the Tale of Beer City USA…as told to runners and seen through the lenses of beer-colored glasses. In the narrative of this fun and fascinating tour, you will learn about the history of the beer brewing industry in Grand Rapids, its demise and its comeback that earned Grand Rapids the “Beer City” title. You will be so captivated by the story, that your feet won’t even know they are moving.
Young President Ford 5K or 10K or 10 Miles
Grand Rapids’ favorite son – Gerald R. Ford – the 38th President of the US, is buried here, beside his wife, Betty, but he was not born here. In fact, he was not named Gerald R. Ford at birth. This running tour will tell the tale of this humble civil servant as you visit actual places touched by “Junior” during his All-American youth – 1913 through 1931 – in old Grand Rapids. The run is a fabulous workout and an even better story of a young man who was raised in this great midwestern city to become a world leader. You will see where he lived, played, worshipped, studied, and competed athletically. As a last stop, you will salute Gerald Ford’s statue in front of his Presidential Museum. Available in three distances – your choice.
String of Pearls 5K or 5 Miles
There are so many unusual and interesting sights and noteworthy Grand Rapids landmarks that do not fit neatly into an existing “themed” running tour. So, we string them together in this invaluable tour of gems and jewels – and call it a String of Pearls. From historically significant buildings to an amazing astronomical post, earliest millstone, colonial horse trough, and a century-old American Elm tree, we will astonish you with 30 brilliant “pearls”. You may select either a 5K or 5 Miles…the extra two miles at no additional cost to you. What a treasure!
Lady Legends 5K
The number of organizations or causes that were founded or inspired by a woman or a group of women in Grand Rapids history, recent and long, is staggering. Most of these institutions continue to operate today and have touched the lives of countless citizens through the years. As a community, we are grateful for these women and their vision, leadership and incredible stamina. Grand Rapids is progressive in many ways, and the story of Lady Legends is just one more example. Would you believe we run by 17 noteworthy sights that feature women? And all of that in a tight, downtown 3.1 mile loop!
Heritage Hill Architectural 5K’ish
If you want to time travel – and step back into an era of graceful, elegant living and imagine life as an heiress to a furniture company fortune – then join us on Heritage Hill. Located immediately east of downtown Grand Rapids, this is the city’s oldest residential district and Michigan’s largest and finest concentration of nineteenth and early twentieth-century houses. Over 50 architectural styles are represented in one of the largest urban historic districts in the U.S. We stop at 14 of the 1,300 homes that date from 1843. These were the homes of mayors, bankers, attorneys, company owners, lumber barons, doctors, judges, and clothiers who shaped the city’s future. This was where the upper crust lived…on “the hill”. This tour is closer to 4 miles, our gift to you.
Monroe North Neighborhood 5K
Come explore and gain a new perspective of the historic North Monroe Neighborhood, one of the 32 neighborhood associations in Grand Rapids. What was once an industrial part of Furniture City is now one of the most exciting and energetic places to live. A lively guide will lead you on a journey through yesterday and give a glimpse into tomorrow. Hug the Mayor’s tree, climb 100 stairs, witness the greatest view of the city, do a cartwheel in the park, run downhill, watch jumping fish and dip your toes into the mighty Grand River. All of that in an adventurous and wacky 5K loop, chock full of interesting trivia and sights.
Honoring Diversity 5K
Historically, a myriad of cultural influences shaped our city then – and are what make Grand Rapids unique today. We are home to people of every race, color, religion, lifestyle, gender, age, marital status, handicap, socio-economic status and national origin. Each group has indelibly contributed to the evolution of individual neighborhoods, the whole city, and this West Michigan region. Today, our living kaleidoscope is a vibrant, intensely colorful and rich community that thrives upon collaboration while honoring diversity. Run or walk through this local anthropological timeline with us; we respect the past and look forward to future cultural shifts. What will they be?
Market to Market Tuesday Morning 10K (May – December)
A delightful journey through Grand Rapids with a spotlight on fresh food…”farm to foot”. The tour begins downtown and meanders east and slightly uphill through the Heartside, Heritage Hill and Midtown neighborhoods before arriving at the city’s oldest farm market – the Fulton Street Market – bustling with shoppers & delectables. Onward through East Town and down the Wealthy Street corridor to the newest food marvel in town – the Downtown Market – alive with epicureans and local mouth-watering treats . Take a peek inside at the 20+ vendors before heading back to the JW Marriott. A great workout to rev your engine and appetite.
Art Dart 5K: ART PRIZE EDITION (Late September – Early October)
What a glorious feast for the senses! See the amazing displays, smell the crisp fall air, hear the musical presentations, and let your feet touch the sidewalks as you run through a bustling downtown. You’ll get a glimpse of the 1,500+ works of art that line downtown streets, parks and pubs as part of the world’s richest art competition. Top 25? Top 10? The winner? Let us guide you through both permanent outdoor sculptures and popular downtown ArtPrize entries.
Grand Rapids’ Most Haunted 5K (Offered all year, but most enjoyable on October evenings)
Do you believe in ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists, apparitions, phantoms, spooks, psychic phenomena or things that go “bump” in the night? If one person sees a ghost, even if several times, you may blame it on an active imagination; but if two or more people see the same spirit in the same place several years apart, you may just frightfully reconsider. This spine-tingling running tour takes you by ten downtown iconic locations where there have been waaaay MORE than just two sightings or unusual activity. There are two questions that we attempt to answer on this spooky journey: Who suffered a tragic death here and is still hanging around? Is this LEGEND or REAL?
Fulton Street Graveyard 5K (Offered all year, but most enjoyable in October – day or night)
175+ years ago, in 1838, the new village of Grand Rapids opened their first public graveyard – just 12 years after the arrival of Louis Campau, the first non-Native American to settle along the Grand River at the rapids Situated at the eastern boundary of the village – it was purposely located well away from the center of settlement. As the first and the oldest graveyard in Grand Rapids history, these humble monuments and graves commemorate fascinating lives of first generation G-Rap colonists. Aren’t you just dying to know WHO? We run 1.5 miles east on Fulton Street to the Puritan-inspired graveyard, then enjoy a narrative while we catch our breath and wander through this quiet place of remembrance. Hop aboard the time machine… and see where original pioneer settlers of Grand Rapids lay in rest.
Twinklin’ Holiday Lights 5K (December evenings)
Are you feeling festive, fun, and frisky? Come dressed in your finest holiday running sweater or tutu or tights as we celebrate the holiday season together. Experience downtown Grand Rapids bejeweled and illuminated with both contemporary and nostalgic lighting displays. The group will run by at least nine uniquely special places, some of which will evoke warm feelings from Christmas’s past. And as a gesture of community kindness, we will give vouchers for meals at Dégagé Ministries for those we pass who may be in need.